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Prosecutors Defend ‘Lenient’ Treatment Of Violent Governor


Armenia -- A combo photo of Silva Hambardzumin (L) and Surik Khachatrian.

Armenia -- A combo photo of Silva Hambardzumin (L) and Surik Khachatrian.

Armenian prosecutors have upheld a law-enforcement body’s controversial decision not to press criminal charges against a regional governor who reportedly assaulted a businesswoman late last year.

The Special Investigative Service (SIS), which is subordinate to the prosecutors, said last month that Syunik Governor Surik Khachatrian did hit the woman, Silva Hambardzumian, at a Yerevan hotel lobby. But the SIS said the violence does not count as a “beating” because it did not involve multiple blows or cause the victim any physical injuries.

The incident took place just days after Hambardzumian alleged at a news conference that a mining company owned by Khachatrian misappropriated mining equipment worth more than 100 million drams ($263,000) from another firm belonging to her. The governor denied that.

The businesswoman protested to the Office of the Prosecutor-General against the SIS’s decision not to prosecute Khachatrian. According to her lawyer Karen Tunian, a prosecutor dealing with the case has replied that the SIS investigation was objective.

Tunian criticized the decision on Thursday, saying that her client will lodge another complaint with Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian and, if necessary, take the prosecutors to court. He insisted that Khachatrian’s actions did constitute an assault. “Otherwise, you could slap anyone on the street and get away with that,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).

Tunian also claimed that the SIS is refusing to give him transcripts of testimony given by eyewitnesses and video of the incident captured by hotel security cameras.

Khachatrian has been implicated in violent conduct in the past. He has always denied his involvement in such incidents and denounced opposition politicians and pro-opposition media for branding him a crime figure.

The SIS’s decision not to charge him was denounced by Armenian human rights activists last month. Some of them linked it with unfolding preparations for the 2012 parliamentary elections

Official results of Armenia’s last presidential and parliamentary elections, marred by opposition allegations of vote rigging, showed President Serzh Sarkisian and his Republican Party doing better in Syunik than in any other part of the country.
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